MY NEPHEW, Lawton, loves to snack. He walks into the pantry, closes the glass door behind him, thinks no one can see him, and reaches for either the chips or the cookies. He’s three years old. I’m decades older but in truth, I’m not that different. I too love to snack and I usually gravitate towards salt-laden junk food even though I know better. Both the voice in the back of my head and my degree in nutrition degree tell me that there are better refueling options than chips, cookies, and crackers.
You see, the snacking urge hits all of us at some time or another. I rarely meet a runner who doesn’t confess to reaching for junk food in the hours following a long run or a stressful day at the office. There’s nothing wrong with snacking per se. Well-designed (i.e. healthy) snacks can prevent severe hunger pangs and consequent binges, can fuel you for a run when you haven’t the time or the stomach for a full meal, and finally, snacks can add energy and otherwise-missing nutrients to your diet. The trick is knowing what to choose. To help, here’s a list of nutritious, satisfying snacks complete with reasons to choose them and nutritional highlights. Consider one of these the next time you find yourself staring into the abyss of your pantry and reaching for the chips…
Snack Choice: Trail mix containing ¾ cup bran flakes tossed with ¼ cup each dried berries, apricots, and mixed nuts
Nutritional Highlights: This snack includes essential nutrients and filling fiber while satisfying all types of snackers with both sweet and salty good-for-you calories.
Health Benefits: Dried fruit is packed with potassium and inadequate amounts of this vital electrolyte can raise your blood pressure, increase your risk of developing kidney stones and possibly lead to bone loss.
Snack Choice: 170 grams fat free Greek yoghurt topped with ½ cup sliced peaches
Nutritional Highlights: This snack contains less than 200 calories yet is packed with protein and other essential nutrients.
Health Benefits: The calcium and protein in this snack will keep your muscles primed and, according to Dietary Guidelines, intake of milk and milk products is associated with lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Snack Choice: 1 cup steamed broccoli paired with 85 grams grilled salmon.
Nutritional Highlights: Stay satiated with less than 200 calories, 6 grams of heart healthy fat, 25 grams of muscle-building protein, and 5 grams of filling fibre.
Health Benefits: This snack boosts heart health and fights inflammation as it’s packed with the omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Snack Choice: 1 whole wheat pita sprinkled with ¼ cup feta cheese and broiled. Cut into triangles and dip in 3 Tbsp hummus
Nutritional Highlights: Packed with 42grams of carbohydrate and 15 grams of protein, this snack will help you to recover from your afternoon run.
Health Benefits: The whole grains in the pita provide a satisfying crunch and according to research compiled by The Whole Grains Council, studies show that eating whole grains instead of refined lowers the risk of many chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease, and may also reduce the risk of stroke.
Snack Choice: Top 2 cups of baby spinach with 1 hard boiled egg and a sprinkling of nuts and vinaigrette dressing.
Nutritional Highlights: This snack will fill you up without weighing you down. If you’re extra hungry, fill your salad bowl with additional colourful veggies (but go easy on the nuts and dressing).
Health Benefits: When it comes to supporting eye health, this snack is a runner’s best friend. It’s packed with the phytonutrient lutein which protects the eyes against oxidative damage and harmful blue light, and has been found to be effective in the fight against macular degeneration.